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London Letter: Street Of The Burning Englishman

...Tangier was not a paradise for tourists and you could get round it in an hour. It contained several mosques and large houses that the tourist books described as palaces and the little alleyways were lined with stylish and mysterious shuttered houses. But it did have two enormous covered markets in an area called the Medina that sold carpets, furniture, camel saddles, pottery and jewellery in every shape and form. We succumbed to the temptation and acquired three packing cases full of treasures but felt cheated when only one of them arrived after we had returned home...

Henry Jackson recalls a visit to Tangier, which followed an overnight stay in Paris at one of the world's most luxurious hotels.

Henry, Britain's oldest weekly columnist, also brings news from London, a poem and a slice of history.

To read more of his lively words please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/london_letter/


New 270 acre London park

The organisers of the 2012 Olympic Games are to build a new 270 acre park in Stratford, East London, the largest urban park to be built in Europe for 150 years. It will cost £200m and will occupy a former industrial site. The park will be home to the Olympic Stadium Aquatic Centre, Velopark, a multi sports arena and an outdoor sport complex. The southern part of the complex will focus on retaining the festival atmosphere from the Games, with riverside gardens, markets, events, cafes and bars. The northern area will use the latest techniques to manage flood and rain water while providing quieter public space and habitats to hundreds of rare species from kingfishers to otters. The site will also include 1.9 miles of soiled and previously neglected and inaccessible rivers plus more than 15 acres of woodland containing 2,000 trees.

A new plan for Park Lane boulevard

London’s planners have put forward a radical change that would turn Park Lane into a pedestrianised boulevard lined with restaurants and luxury shops.

Under the scheme traffic from Hyde Park Corner to Marble Arch would travel through a tunnel that would release the land “for development and green space”. The proposals are part of the Lord Mayor’s vision for London’s roads and public transport. Among further schemes are one for 12 major cycle roués into Central London that would lift restrictions on cyclists at the majority of public parks and a proposal to convert part of the Victoria Embankment into a cycle lane.

Free travel for pensioners

War pensioners and their relatives have been granted free travel on the London transport system.

TFL cuts plans by £2.4bn

Transport for London announced cuts of £2.4bn in its development plans for the next 10 years. The cuts include the proposed Thames Gateway Bridge, the Docklands Light Railway extension to Dagenham Docks and the cross river tram. A £500m Oxford Street tram scheme is put on hold as well as a £170m Croydon Translink and public area.

Memorial for July 7 bombing victims

A £1m memorial for victims of the July 7 bombing of London is to be erected in Hyde Park. Westminster Council has approved the memorial made up of 52 stainless steel pillars, one for each victim, grouped in four clusters to mark the attacks. It will stand on the East side of the park between Lovers Walk and Park Lane and will be in place by July 2009.

Anthrax kills drum maker

Ferrnando Gomez, of Hackney, East London, died after contracting anthrax in his drum making factory. Gomez, a father of four, was a Spanish folk musician and contracted the disease while making Bongo drums from imported African animal hides. Seven others who worked in the same factory are receiving treatment.

Fostering ban on smokers

Redbridge Council in East London has banned smokers from fostering children.

Christmas lights in Regent St

The first Christmas lights have been switched on in Regent Street.

Milligan mementoes auction

Books, letters and drawings by the late Spike Milligan are to be auctioned by Bonhams in London on November 25. The sale will also include 40 “Good Show” recordings on quarter inch tape and a piano that was often played by his neighbour, Sir Paul McCartney. Also in the sale will be the script for the Phantom Raspberry Blower at Old London Town as featured in The Two Ronnies. Milligan died in 2002 at the age of 83 and the sale has been organised by his widow, Shelagh, to whom he was married for 27 years.

Ben Hur coming to London

A spectacular live action adaptation of the epic tale Ben Hur complete with 400 performers, 100 animals and five chariots will have its premier at London’s O2 Arena next September.

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Poems for Posterity

You
Surprise me, delight me
Excite me, energise me,
enthuse me, aggravate me,
tempt me, provoke me.
How
do you manage to do it?
Why
do you do it?
When
are you going to do it again?
February 5 2003

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Famous quotes

The place where optimism most flourishes is the lunatic asylum. - Havelock Ellis

Charm is the quality in others that makes us more happy with ourselves. - Henry Amiel

Nothing you can’t spell will ever work, - Will Rogers

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Today in history

1508. The first telescope was invented by a Dutchman.

1935. The Parker brothers introduced the game of Monopoly.

1951. First long distance telephone call without the help of an operator.

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This Wonderful World…10
Tangier


I chose Tangier for my third honeymoon in 1960 after marrying Copper who lived two floors above me in my Chelsea apartment. I had visited most other parts of Africa during the War from Bathurst, Freetown and Lagos in the West down to Walvis Bay in the South-West and Cape Town in the South. Up the East coast I had explored Port Elizabeth, East London and Durban in the East, Mombassa in the North-East and finally Suez where it joined up with the Mediterranean. But I knew nothing about Tangier. It was a complete mystery to me like it was to most Europeans. It had an atmosphere and reputation for hidden lawlessness, drug dealing and picturesque banditry that generated a feeling of excitement.

The first problem was getting there because there was no direct flight flight to Tangier from London. So we decided to start our journey from Paris. We flew there in time for dinner at the world famous George V hotel, arriving there in time for dinner. Our suite was suite was big, quiet and luxurious. We decided to eat in our own dining room. The Maitre D bowed so low that he nearly fell over when we met for the first time. Champagne was waiting in a cooler and after a few sips I requested a menu and the Maitre D returned with what looked like an album listing the many appetising specialities that the Master Chef had to offer. After a discussion lasting 10 minutes I chose the food and the wine, the connoisseur’s dream, Chevalier Montrachet.

An hour later there was a discreet knock on the door and the Maitre D returned followed by two waiters pushing a large trolley. He held up the proceedings while he uncorked the wine with skilful agility, poured a few drops into the silver tasting thimble suspended round his neck, wished us Good Health and sipped the contents. He withdrew walking backwards and the waiters served the meal. The wine and the food were magnificent.

It was an easy flight into Tangier the next day and a battered old Rover car-cum-taxi took us from the airport to the Rif Hotel on the edge of the town. It was a new six-storey building and we had a magnificent suite on the 5th floor with stunning views over the sea and coast. We could not believe the size of the bath, it was almost big enough for a swim.

A strict dress code was in force and you had to change for dinner and a seven piece orchestra played softly while you were served. The menu had an international French flavour with the addition of Middle Eastern favourites like cous cous and other bubbling and aromatic favourites.

The hotel was situated on the edge of a large lake with a small island on which stood a bar and a sunbathing retreat. To get there you either had to swim or paddle across in a tiny canoe that was quite an adventure. I swam but my wife Copper had to use the boat canoe and she complained that it was too strenuous.

Tangier was not a paradise for tourists and you could get round it in an hour. It contained several mosques and large houses that the tourist books described as palaces and the little alleyways were lined with stylish and mysterious shuttered houses. But it did have two enormous covered markets in an area called the Medina that sold carpets, furniture, camel saddles, pottery and jewellery in every shape and form. We succumbed to the temptation and acquired three packing cases full of treasures but felt cheated when only one of them arrived after we had returned home.

The city had a never ending selection of cafes that offered traditional Eastern food and added music and or dancing displays as an added attraction. The wailing sounds wafted through every street and miling young giants stood outside and encouraged you to take part.

The best we encountered was called the Katoubia Palace and its main attraction was a stunning group of 6ft belly dancers who chatted as they danced but never stopped waving their voluminous but flimsy gowns high in the air and over their heads. It revealed their secret. They never wore underwear. The climax to each performance was a wild howl of pipes, a frantic rhapsody of drums, and a crash of cymbals at the end of which each of the girls stood still smiling with her gown weaving gently high above her head.

We made one interesting discovery on the hill above the town. Here we found the large house owned by Barbara Hutton, the Woolworth heiress, who spent her sixth honeymoon there but never returned. The house was filled with beautiful furniture and paintings and was open to visitors, the proceeds going to a children’s charity.

Travel around Tangier was difficult because Morocco was divided politically into four regions, each administered by a differed country and the railways had four different gauges so we avoided them and travelled by an old but reliable German limousine, complete with interpreter.

On one trip we drove to a beautiful but isolated resort named Xauen high up in the mountains where a turbulent and noisy narrow stream ran down the centre of the main street only to disappear down a large hole, never to appear again. The town was the centre of a wool production industry and every street was festooned with lines of multi coloured wool strands drying in the sun.

Every Wednesday there was a large street market and the market place was filled with produce from small local traders. The street leading into the market place was named Street of the Burning Englishman. This did not deter bargain hunters.

We had lunch in a beautiful little hotel owned by an English couple who had arrived on a visit 30 years before and never went back. They bought a little group of houses and turned them into a six-bedroom hotel that could easily have been situated in Kent or Sussex.

Our time passed quickly and ten days later we took a plane back to Gibraltar then another to London and arrived ready for the never ceasing demands of running a publishing business and an advertising agency.

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Me

Computer problems this week, but I managed to catch up. On Tuesday I went to Annaliese’s 9th birthday party at Brampton. She was delighted with her main present, a digital camera.

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Friends & Family

Samantha (Mid Wales)
Encountering heavy frosts in her mountain home.
Husband Ray is to have a cataract operation next Friday.
Samantha is to a have an ankle operation three days later.

Shirley (Croydon)
Has been harassed by her bank who informed her that £3,500 had been taken from her account and then said that it had been replaced. Then they tried to persuade her to start a new programme but Shirley refused. Shirley is very acute and knowledgeable on all money matters and would make an ideal Chancellor of the Exchequer.


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